Improving Efficiency for Cobourg’s Planning

In November 2020, the KPMG Service Delivery Review Report recommended (amongst other things) that Site Plan Approvals be delegated to Staff instead of coming to Council every time. This would speed up development and improve operational efficiency.  At the Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on 6 September, Council will be asked to approve this change.  The move is also prompted by Provincial bill the More Homes for Everyone Act, Bill 109 which requires this change!  Development agreements would still come to Council so it’s not a bypass of Council approval of developments, it’s just a delegation of technical planning issues which Councillors are generally not experts in.

Another change being requested is that Site Plan applicants should be required to have a pre-consultation with the Planning Department so they are clear on what’s required to make an application.  A third change is that Staff should report annually (in Q1) on the previous year’s Planning Act applications and approvals.

Staff have detailed the “before and after” of the process in their report to Council.  The report says that the changes will “free up many hours of staff time and resources for other priorities and streamline the approval processes for applicants.”

Summary of Benefits

  • Improved efficiency (implies less staff needed)
  • Staff delegation will improve timelines and will free up resources for other projects.
  • Residential units will reach the construction phase more quickly.
  • Housing projects can advance more quickly and without delay.
  • Annual reporting will provide enhanced communication

In addition to the explanatory memo (see Resources below), Staff have provided 9 attachments including draft by-laws and forms to be used.  Hopefully Councillors will read all the provided material and make an informed decision.



This change was approved by Council at their CoW meeting on Sept 6.

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1 September 2022 4:57 pm

“..the KPMG Service Delivery Review Report recommended (amongst other things) that Site Plan Approvals be delegated to Staff instead of coming to Council every time.” is this not exactly what Consultants are supposed to do, feed back to the client what is already known, required by a higher authority i.e. the Province? There is no choice. Apparently ‘many’ hours of Staff time will be saved, per Staff input. I would have thought the CAO and Staff management would have been able to provide this input without the assistance of either the Province or KPMG SDRR. I feel this is the type of activity is what raises the hackles of those who argue that Cobourg has spent to much money on Consultants.

Reply to  Gerinator
3 September 2022 8:19 am

Can you even find any staff at this town ? how about a posted list of what employees are
working in Office on what days and times . What is it costing Taxpayers to provide all these
with cell phs etc .

Keith Oliver
1 September 2022 10:05 am

In reading John’s report on this matter I’m reminded of the expression … “Too many cooks spoil the broth!””.

Trying hard to make things perfect often results in overly complicated solutions … for example … recent changes to parking regulations in the downtown.

This proposed change to the present Site Plan Approval process makes a lot of sense. Council makes policy, Staff impiments policy.

As noted, Council still maintains a degree of over sight and control through an annual report from Staff, and Council can always be advised of any problems or well argued changes through Delegations to Council by the Public and through recommendations brought forward by citizen-based Advisory Committees.

Last edited 4 months ago by Keith Oliver
Wally Keeler
Reply to  Keith Oliver
1 September 2022 11:24 am

Trying hard to make things perfect often results in overly complicated solutions … for example … recent changes to parking regulations in the downtown.

A better example would be the ‘anti-idling bylaw’. Not only is it bloated with cumbersome caveats, but it is ineffective to achieve anything other than as a hollow virtue signal.

Reply to  Keith Oliver
1 September 2022 7:05 pm

Annual Report ?? Council can be advised of problems What control is that
This does not go well for developers trying to push projects through
in the shortest time possible and with in reasonable costs and development budgets
Affordable housing starts with affordable land and fast turn around Not years and years of
holding land with Stalled projects
Carrying Mortgages , Servicing cost , Taxes etc etc all compounding the final cost to the project and ultimately the public

Reply to  Sandpiper
2 September 2022 6:09 am

Sandpiper you have said this before with little proof: Not years and years of
holding land with Stalled projects”

Where are these projects that the Town has held up? I drive around and see empty plots, sales billboards and they have been there for years. The empty lot at Willmott and King has been promising a plaza for years. The empty lots at Densmore beside extendicare have been promising houses for all for years too. Why the delay surely not the Town, but your buddies the developers on their own timetables.

Reply to  ben
2 September 2022 7:27 am

You missed one..Tremaine St & King…It is now being over grown with weeds…another task the town does not seem to mind.

Reply to  cornbread
2 September 2022 11:01 am

yes thats another one 2 walk aways and a Bankruptcy latter
its sitting

Reply to  Sandpiper
2 September 2022 5:16 pm

Why did they go bankrupt and what did the town have to do with that?

Reply to  cornbread
3 September 2022 7:23 am

Along with those examples is the proposed development onto the King George Inn with the 18 years of signs and the abandoned trailer with its regained shabbiness and negligence.

Reply to  ben
2 September 2022 11:00 am

King and Brook Rd took 5 yrs on a correctly Zoned site with the right OP
3 owners latter we finally have a commercial enterprise and jobs Then lets look at Elgin st W next to the YMCA for 90 Apartments and affordable Town homes 15 yrs +++ 3 owners latter , White st west of Ontario Town homes .
15 yrs several owners latter . Vandyke Homes west of Canadian tire Yes Danforth / Densmore Rd 3 developers latter
They give up , Walk away after The Town sucks the life out of these types of projects
until the value is lost There are all kinds of situations of stalled and deffered
projects out there Even the Tannery lands

Reply to  Sandpiper
2 September 2022 5:14 pm

BS sandpiper they give because of lack of money or the inclination to follow the rules. Just how hard is it take a planned development and build it……. 30 years and the new owners of the Elgin st subdivision, next rotary park still haven’t turned the sod.

Reply to  Keith Oliver
1 September 2022 8:57 pm


I agree with you in part: Council makes policy, Staff implements policy.

On reporting, I disagree. Annual reporting is a waste. The time delay prevents any supportive/corrective action of consequence.
In the private sector senior management reports to the board monthly with in-depth reporting quarterly. And the reporting is done within 30 days of month-end, not several months later.
That is how effective oversight is done.

Why is it a hardship for staff to provide a simple report stating the status of current projects, completed ones and new ones?
Does the current Council know how many subdivision projects are active, new, completed and most importantly, those in default.
I would bet that the planning director doesn’t know these metrics, let alone the CAO and Council.

Oversight is not generally intended to be a negative event. Rather it is an opportunity to get valuable feedback and sage advice. That is why private sector companies make serious efforts to attract the best talent available for their board and pay them well.

Cobourg has made some progress in attracting better talent and the pay has been increased, although it is still at the minimum wage level and certainly not the “living wage” that the Town espouses. Nonetheless, this term of Council has seen a leadership vacuum, tears, “shoot the messenger” attacks, a witch hunt, copy-cat voting and a Council member napping during meetings.

Election day is coming soon. Cobourg residents would do well to remember the adage “you get the government that you deserve”

Vote wisely and elect the best available talent.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bryan
Keith Oliver
Reply to  Bryan
2 September 2022 10:59 am


Once again there is a distinct difference between the way a private enterprise is run and its’ goals, and the way local government operates and its’ goals.

The frequency of reporting you advocate for puts the Council back into the role of Manager. The hoped for efficiencies and savings in both cost and time is based on Council removing itself from that role.

To illustrate the new role envisioned for Council … it becomes more like the board-of-directors of a private enterprise with management and implementation relegated to staff.

The benefits of this reasignment of responsibilities will not happen overnight, but an annual report to Council will indicate whether the new separation of powers is working or whether it needs further refinement.

1 September 2022 9:12 am

This Can’t be good . As it is Councilors can’t get the facts on any project s progress
there needs to be more Clarity and Accountability in the process from that department
at any time some one entitled to the update and information request it . That includes Councilors that represent the public No more hide the pea type Schell games .
Besides I believe the Engineering department has more to do with time consumption and stalling
than the Building and Planning Dept. They have NO Idea of the present day service Capacities
available through most of the Town Study ,after Study ,after Studies are requested from developers just to educate and up date the staff in engineering This is where the real costs mount up for any developer

1 September 2022 8:11 am

If a real business took 2 years to react, like it does in Cobourg, it would be “Out of Business”. Why so long to do the change?

Keith Oliver
Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2022 11:33 am


One answer to your concern is that a traditional business is controlled by its owners and subject to calculated risk, which can be fatal.

On the other hand, Council, and the business of Council are subject to many more controls.

Examples are: the the fact that Municipalities are the creation of the Provincial Government and the limits it imposes: they are subject to the Provincial Policy Statements and many other laws and regulations: they must satisfy many different interests in the immediate community Council serves; their ability to act more quickly is often limited by how much work Staff has been directed by Council to perform at any one time.

Comparing the business of Council to that of a free-market business has many limits which should be understood and respected.

Last edited 4 months ago by Keith Oliver
Concerned Cobourg Resident
Reply to  Keith Oliver
3 September 2022 2:55 pm

Keith, your premise is that if a public body operated like a private business, it would be fatal.

This is certainly not the case. The primary goal of a private business is to make a profit. In order to do this, it must be efficient and competitive, lest it get swallowed up its competition.

The problem with ALL public enterprise it that there is no incentive to be efficient. Politicians pay lip service to promises in hopes that the masses elect them, then while in office spend money on endless meeting and committees about their promises. Nothing ever gets done because THERE IS NO REASON TO. The town still collects its taxes yearly whether the tax payer likes it or not.

What is the more important question, is “why do we need government?” The private sector is more than willing and able to get anything done that is necessary because they understand how to stay profitable and how to be efficient, because they do not have a choice.

Secondly, council has a choice to adopt the policy statement promulgated by the government. If they do not, then why does the town of Cobourg exist?

I am more than happy to engage you in debate on this topic.